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Pink, black or sea salt?

Source:Ringier Food

Date Published:11/17/2017 05:11:40 PM

There's not just one kind of cooking salt to choose from these days. This humble ingredient comes in a range of culinary specialty forms. 

THERE’s not just one kind of culinary salt to choose from these days. This humble ingredient now comes in a range of specialty forms, not to mention fancy names. 

The environmental news site, EcoWatch lists nine kinds of salt, including Himalayan Pink, Grey, Fleur de sel, Black, Red, Persian Blue, Smoked, and of course, table salt and sea salt. But are they any different from one another in terms of flavor or nutrrient content?

Sea salt, produced as solar evaporation takes place, is the least processed, and in its natural state contains minimal iodine. While sea salt doesn’t undergo the same processing as the others, EcoWatch cautions that there is a possibility of salt being infiltrated with microplastics (MPs) which are now increasingly polluting the oceans. Microplastics come from larger plastics, resin pellets, or manufactured plastic beads (microbeads).

The scientific report, The presence of microplastics in commercial sea salts from different countries, published in Nature in 2017, concludes that there is “insignificant load of MPs larger than 149 μm in salts originating from 8 different countries and, therefore, negligible health risks associated with the consumption of salts. The increasing trend of plastic use and disposal*, however, might lead to the gradual accumulation of MPs in the oceans and lakes and, therefore, in products from the aquatic environments. This should necessitate the regular quantification and characterization of MPs in various sea products.”

Table salt is mined from dried seabeds and undergoes extraction and refinement called solution mining and brine evaporation, according to the Salt Association. To it, iodine and anti-clumping agents are added.

The Himalayan Pink salt simply comes from the Himalayan mountains, and since it contains a generous amount of iron, it is rosy in color. 

Grey salt gets its color from the clay where it is obtained by hand-raking – in Brittany, France. The mingling of clay and sand gives grey salt its moist characteristic.

Fleur de sel, literally flower of the salt is hand-harvested along the French coastline in the same pools as grey salt.

From Hawaii, black lava salt is unrefined and volcanic. Since it contains activated charcoal, the salt is black.

Also from Hawaii, red salt is said to contain the highest amounts of trace minerals and is high in iron content. In tidal pools where it is harvested, salt combines with the volcanic clay known as alaea from where it gets the reddish tint.

Persian blue from the salt lakes of Iran is mineral rich and a bit sweet. The salt turns bluish as a result of natural compression.

Smoked salt is sea salt that is smoked at low temperatures to give it a tan or grey color. It adds another layor of flavor to food.  

Salts with fancy names and origins can elevate the charm of food, but at the end of the day, they all do the same important thing – add depth of flavor and shelf life. As to nutrient content, there isn't much.

* Law, K. L. et al. Plastic accumulation in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre. Science 329, 1185–1188 (2010).

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